BASN Year In Review: The Top 10 Stories Of The Year

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 2, 2005

Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — 2004 was the year that began with Janet’s breast, saw UConn pull a unique double-double in college hoops, and we all saw hell freeze over as the Red Sox finally (FINALLY!!!!!) won the World Series.
Of course, there were scandals that stretched from Columbus to BALCO, we said goodbye to Reggie (White) and Ralph (Wiley) and also said hello to new stars like tennis phenoom Timothy Neilly and LSU women’s hoop coach Pokey Chatman.
For better or worse, here are BASN’s choices for stories of the year in order:
1. The Kobe Thing
Remember the Jodeci album “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel” from a few years back? The title sort of describes the whole Kobe thing and how it seemed to go on-and-on all during 2004. In this case it was the trial, the verdict, the aftermath, the Shaq-Jackson feuds, the finals, (breath!!), the trade and Phil leaving, the Mailman accusations, and the Christmas Day game (WHEW). All that and I didn’t even mention the Olympic snub (we’ll get to that later).
2. Steroids: Barry and the Chase/Marion’s Fall From Grace
A story that will stretch out far into 2005 and possibly beyond. Are Bonds’ numbers now tainted as he approaches Bad Henry’s hallowed mark? What will be the fallout from rapid and casual baseball fans? We already have seen the media’s take on the issue, but the fan reaction will tell the toll on how this will play out. With Ms. Jones’ pending suit against Victor Conte, this is a story that has legs and wont go away quietly.
3. The Brawl at The Palace
It may prove to be the most galvanizing moment in American sports history. The Pacers-Pistons fight was clearly one of the most talked about events in the sports world in 2004. The swift punishment handed down by Commissioner David Stern is also something that may be a bigger issue down the road. Just a reminder: the NBA Players Association contract ends after this season. Hopefully, the league and its players will learn something that the NHL is finding out now. Don’t toy with the emotions of angry fans.
4. Maurice Clarett/Mike Williams vs. the NFL
They fought the law and the law won on a TKO. Williams’ gambled heavily and lost his college eligiblity, while Clarett is still in the eye of a pending storm at Ohio State. Again, the final chapter of this may play out in April at the 2005 NFL Draft. Barring injury, Williams looks to be at least a first round pick. Will anyone be willing to deal with the baggage that comes with Lil’ Mo? Stay tuned.
5. Black Coaches and NCAA Football
The powers that be in Division I-A schools are still lagging behind when it comes to the subject of African-American head coaches. The whole Notre Dame-Ty Willingham debacle showed that. Luckily, he’s been given another chance at Washington. However, a black coach had a huge say in some of the major hirings and firings of 2004. When Sylvester Croom’s Mississippi State Bulldogs upset Florida, it led to Ron Zook’s firing by the Gators, who hired Urban Meyer, after he turned down ND.
6. U.S. Hoop team debacle
Stubbornly, this writer thought the U.S. team would bring home another gold medal. However, between the All-Star snubs (Kobe, Shaq, Kidd, Allen, etc.), some questionable decisions by coach/whiner Larry Brown and very little prep time, Team USA was doomed from the start. Whether you want to believe it or not, a gold medal in men’s hoops is no longer a rubber stamp for this country anymore. Oh well, thank god the U.S. ladies are still the best.
7. Pistons win NBA title
Lets face it, we all thought the Western Conference would cruise over any Eastern Conference team in the finals. Someone forgot to tell the boys from Motown. If it wasn’t for a bad five minite stretch in Game 2, the Pistons would have swept the Lakers. The kinder and gentler Bad Boys brought the sports world’s ugliest championship trophy back to Auburn Hills. Now if they could just erase the memory of that night against the Pacers.
8. Vijay dethrones Tiger
Just a few years ago, Vijay Singh’s comments against Annika Sorenstam made him look like the charter member of the “He-Man Women Haters Club”. It’s amazing what winning a few majors and dominating his sport can do for public perception. His 2004 proves that the PGA Tour isn’t just Tiger a few guys named Phil. You also get the feeling that Vijay and Tiger will be going at it again in 2005.
9. Jerome Iginla reaches the finals
He’s been a MVP. He’s won a scoring title, a gold medal, and a World Cup in Hockey. All that was left for the Calgary star was a chance to win the sports’ Holy Grail. Despite his best efforts in an exciting 7-game series, Jerome and his Famous Flames came up just a bit short to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unfortunately for Iginla and many other hockey fans, that may be one of the last images of hockey we’ll see in a while.
10. The debuts of LeBron James and Freddie Adu
One helped lead his team to a championship (Adu), while the other just missed making the postseason (James). All along the way, they were asked to play the boys to men role in raising the popularity of their respective league. Both showed wisdom and maturity way beyond their young years. One gets the feeling that despite some of the black eyes that each sport has taken, these two will be major parts of the sport scene for a long, long time.